Friday, April 27, 2012

Yet Another Gripe About Facebook and Timeline

As the web has become a part of pop culture, I do at times discuss web sites here. It also seems that the web site I write about the most is Facebook. Sadly, it seems I rarely have very much complimentary to say about Facebook. The reason is simple. It seems to me that Facebook is determined to go the way of MySpace in reducing the functionality of the site with each passing month.

Indeed, as I have complained elsewhere on this blog, Facebook recently implemented a new sort of profile called Timeline. Timeline is supposed to let one, in Facebook's own word, "...highlight the photos, posts and life events that help you tell your story." While Timeline does let one go to any given month in any given year on one's profile with relative ease, over all I believe it does the exact opposite of highlighting photos, posts, and life events. Because of its two column layout it is often hard to make sense of one's own Timeline, let alone those of friends. The end result is that one is too busy trying to figure out when a particular post was made in comparison to others to even care which posts are highlighted. This was one advantage Facebook's previous layout, the Wall, has over Timeline. Its simple, single column design made it easy to see posts and to know when they were made in comparison to others.  Is it any wonder most Facebook users prefer the Wall to Timeline?

Sadly, Facebook has not simply inflicted Timeline on its users, but on its business and brand pages as well, despite the fact that most users either hate Timeline or, at the very least, preferred the Wall. At the end of March Facebook switched all brand and business pages to the Timeline format. Now I have never visited Facebook pages that much, but I have found since Facebook forced all pages to the Timeline format I do so even less. Now if the average Facebook user is like me, then I rather suspect that pages have seen a dramatic drop in the number of visitors they receive. As to my own writer's page, I simply deleted it. Part of this was in protest against Facebook forcing all pages to the Timeline format. Part of it was also the fact that I believe that in forcing my page into the Timeline format Facebook then rendered it useless as a means of promotion. In the Wall format it might get a few visitors each month. In Timeline format, I suspect it would get none.

Now Facebook appears to be trying to improve Timeline. Unfortunately, the changes they have made the past few days are only cosmetic and one of them is hardly an improvement at all. The first change, made a few days ago, was to make profile pictures bigger. To me this is an improvement, as it seems to me that the profile pictures on Timeline were much smaller than those on the old Wall. Sadly, a change they made today is not an improvement at all. Quite simply, today they made the pictures in the Friends box on one's Timeline larger. To me this made a layout that is already unattractive enough (with the cover photo, boxes containing activities, and photos that are displayed much too large) even more unattractive. Here I must point out that Timeline already loads slower than the Wall did. With the friends' photos even larger, I suspect Timeline will load even slower. While this might not be a major concern for those of us with high speed internet, for those who only have dial up it is a major concern. Indeed, I have to wonder that they will even be able to use Facebook at all.

In the end it seems obvious to me that Facebook has forgotten the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). As proof, Timeline is not a timeline at all. Twitter's single column feed, displayed from the oldest tweets to the newest, is a timeline. Google+'s stream, with posts displayed in single column from the oldest to the newest, is a timeline. With a double column layout that makes it hard to keep track of posts, Facebook's Timeline is not a timeline at all. Instead it is more like a scrapbook with only room for two rows of scraps, and those scraps are posted in such a way that it is hard to make sense of anything.

Sadly, it does seem to me that the initial furore over Timeline has died down and as a result even those who still detest Timeline are not complaining loudly enough. I rather suspect that the reason for this is that people have simply resigned themselves to the idea that no matter how much they complain, Facebook will not change a thing. I think they could be wrong. First, it was not that long ago that Facebook made changes to the news feed which resulted in widespread user outrage. As a result of the large number of complaints made by users, Facebook changed the news feed back more or less to the way it was. I rather suspect that if enough people complain about Timeline, then they will either return to the Wall or at least make improvements to Timeline (for instance, making it only a single column). By the way, if you want to complain about Timeline, at the bottom of their "Timeline: A New Kind of Profile," are two links where one can report bugs or make suggestions (i.e. complaints).

Many have commented about how Facebook's Timeline reminds them of what MySpace became in later years. Facebook has become "SpaceBook" or "MyFace." I rather suspect that if Facebook does not do away with Timeline or make improvements, they might well become MySpace: a once might social networking site that became a graveyard. It is not as if Facebook does not have a viable rival now (Google+). Sadly, it seems to me Facebook either realises none of this or they are simply in a deep state of denial. In that case, a few years from now we might be saying, "Do you remember Facebook?"

1 comment:

gman said...

It seems to me that Timeline is the result of a brainstorming session where Mark and others asked the question: “how can we get people to look at the page more so they will see more advertisements?” Thus, Timeline was born. I still have the old “wall” platform, but I noticed that I get all of my “like” updates in the app on my Hopper whole-home DVR. I don’t see any settings to change the options, so I wonder if I upgrade to Timeline that it will change that. A Dish co-worker pointed out though that I can see the photos of other Dish Hopper owners that use the Facebook app, which is cool for keeping up with them.